The life of a visually-impaired student
Kennedy is 11 years old and lives with his grandmother in Daraina, in a small district of Madagascar. He has a visual impairment and it’s not always easy for him to adjust to school life.
Kennedy at his grandmother’s home | ©Handicap International
Kennedy lives with his grandmother. “Kennedy has two older brothers and two older sisters but they don’t live with him,” she explains. “His father likes having children left and right but he doesn’t like to take care of them. He’s lived with me since he was a baby.”
Kennedy’s grandmother enrolled him in school when he was three years old. Despite his visual impairment, Kennedy has managed to adjust to school life and he’s especially interested in history. He wants to be President one day:
“I want to be president of the Republic because a president can build things and I’d like to build roads.”
People with disabilities are often stigmatised in Madagascar, and children with disabilities are rarely enrolled in school. Many teachers think they shouldn’t be there at all. One exception is Kennedy’s teacher, who has adapted to his disability thanks to training from Handicap International. According to Kennedy: “She lets me move around as much as I want so I can see what’s written on the board. I sit at the front because if I’m far away, my sight gets watery when I look at the board. I move my desk around depending on where the teacher is. I follow her as she gives the lesson.”
Kennedy likes school. But it’s not easy for him to do his homework at night. His eyes bother him a lot and his grandmother doesn’t always have enough money to buy the medication he needs to relieve them.
“He needs to use the medication prescribed by the doctors all the time, so when it runs out, his eyes get watery and clogged up. I should take him to the doctor regularly but I don’t have the money. Whenever there are free clinics in Diégo, and I can pay for the transport, I take Kennedy, but I always come back with prescriptions for medication to buy.”
Handicap International and inclusive education
HI trains teachers in inclusive education. This training gives teachers a better understanding of disability issues and helps them manage the problems experienced by some of their students. They also learn how to put together a Personal Education Plan (PEP) to ensure each child with disabilities is included and monitored. This PEP includes a medical report, goals and the adjustments needed to optimise the student’s learning. A summary of the interview is then discussed with the child’s parents.